Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hawks Sign Randolph Morris

It's not the most difficult task a man has had to complete, but credit to Rick Sund for acquiring a backup center more capable of playing basketball than Solomon Jones. Assuming, of course, that Sund succeeds in re-signing the team's best player.

Sekou Smith reports the signing:
Morris, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound center/power forward has agreed to the NBA minimum salary, which is about $1.7 million for the two years.

The formal announcement of his signing, as well as that of veteran free agent swingman Maurice Evans, is expected as earlier as today.
Morris, as you may recall, entered the draft after his sophomore season at Kentucky, was not drafted, returned to Kentucky for his junior season, upon the completion of which he signed as a free agent with the New York Knicks in a rare example of Isiah Thomas taking a chance on getting value for money. That didn't come to pass as Thomas only gave him (or Morris only earned) 225 minutes in 23 games over the season-plus he was in New York. He was not productive in his brief playing time.

In other news, this Wayne Simien profile from the Lawrence Journal-World states that Simien will take part in the Hawks' veteran camp this fall.

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Lang Whitaker Interviews Lon Babby and Jim Tanner

Following up on yesterday's DraftExpress interview of Olympiacos Assistant Coach Manos Manouselis, here's an interview of Josh Childress's agents, Lon Babby and Jim Tanner, conducted by Slam's Lang Whitaker. (HT: TrueHoop)

Tanner contradicts Manouselis's statement that Olympicaos were "offered the services of Josh Childress."
SLAM: Jim, about Josh Childress — had you guys considered Europe at all, or was that something that just kind of popped up from off the radar?

TANNER: We’d like to take credit for it, but Olympiacos contacted us. We got a call from the owner, and I think he was the one who identified Josh to the coaches and general manager...
The most interesting exchange (to me) implicitly reveals the level of Childress's desire to continue to play for the Hawks:
SLAM: I think it’s been very interesting. As a Hawks fan, and I wrote this last week, I can understand why Josh would not take the deal, and I can also understand why the Hawks wouldn’t match that deal.

BABBY: Nobody ever asked them to match it, by the way. That’s kind of a misnomer that I guess they suggested, that I insisted that they match. We never asked them that.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Draft Express Interview With Olypiacos Assistant

The key comment (by my reckoning) made by Olympiacos Assistant Coach Manos Manouselis:
I will tell you that offers were extended to both James Posey and Ricky Davis. We were able to personally meet with Ricky and his wife in Las Vegas during the time of the Summer League, and we were immensely impressed with him as a person in addition to his fantastic basketball skill level. While going back and forth negotiating with Ricky, we were surprisingly offered the services of Josh Childress, and so we as an organization collectively decided to wait for a meeting with him in order to assess the possibility of extending an offer to Josh, since we felt he may fit our needs at the 3/2 position a little better than Ricky. We met with Josh in Las Vegas, and then he decided to come to Athens for the purpose of his own due diligence, and here we are today.
It's a lengthy interview that covers the length and value of Childress's contract (3 years, $20 million), the impact of Childress's arrival on Olympiacos's sponsorship deals, and the Greek perspective on American agents.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Hawks Sign Maurice Evans

The Hawks needed to add a couple of nice bench players before they magically made Josh Childress disappear so I think the AJC (or headline writer: Hawks fill Childress' void by signing Evans is being overly optimistic. Evans is four years older than Childress has never played as much as Childress nor as efficiently. Still, rare among his new teammates, he can make the three-point shot and he has a reputation as a good defender (Though Orlando gave up 5.3 more points per 100 possessions when Evans was on the floor last year, his defensive on/off numbers from previous years would suggest he's average at worst.)

The details:
Journeyman Maurice Evans has agreed to terms with the Hawks on a three-year deal believed to be worth about $7.5 million, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Career stats at

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Details on Childress Contract, Cap Ramifications

Re-capping the work of Mr. Sekou Smith in today's AJC in which the relevant information was spread across two stories.

First, money:
Olympiakos offered three years and $32.5 million, which after taxes paid by the club becomes a net of salary of about $6.7 million a year for Childress.

The Hawks offered five years and $33 million, which after taxes paid by Childress becomes a net salary of about $3.4 million per year for Childress.
Next, the perks:
Olympiakos also pays for all of Childress' living expenses, including luxury accommodations, a car and driver and maid service.
Then, the opt-out clause:
Childress also has an annual opt-out clause in the contract that will allow him to weigh his NBA options, as a restricted free agent provided the Hawks tender a qualifying offer to him, every summer.
About that qualifying offer:
By retaining Childress' NBA rights there are salary-cap implications the Hawks have to contend with where he is concerned. Since his qualifying for the upcoming season was just $4.8 million, the Hawks don't even have the full mid-level exception to work with in finding his replacement.
I haven't yet learned whether or not the dollar figure of the qualifying offer changes from year to year.

Finally, the contract with Olympiakos does not include a buyout clause:
There is no buyout clause in the contract, meaning Childress won't have to negotiate a compensation package for Olympiakos if he were to return to the NBA before the end of the three year deal.
My guess is that the Hawks find a way screw up the paperwork necessary to submitting a valid qualifying offer for Childress at some point in the next two years and forfeit his rights completely.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Josh Childress Is My Favorite Hawk

He's now made the most direct criticism of the franchise possible. This should be devastating to anyone who cares about the Atlanta Hawks. Without whining, pleading, or politicking publicly Childress has made it clear that the Atlanta Hawks organization does not have the ability to compete in the NBA.

Childress didn't want to play here anymore. I assume he was not enthused with the prospect of tying his professional future to a franchise that has no greater ambition than to stand pat following a 37-win season that included a lop-sided first-round playoff loss. I assume that he recognizes Mike Woodson's various and obvious limitations as an NBA coach. I assume that he has taken notice of two different front office regimes' inability and/or unwillingness to sign two of the team's four best players in consecutive summers. I assume he's looked at the bottom half of the roster and the summer league team and realized that the Hawks are one significant injury away from a 25-win season in 2008-09. I assume he noticed that Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and New York have each made a commitment to getting better. I assume he noticed that New Jersey has made a commitment to get worse so as to get better at a distinct point in the future. There are likely more reasons than this as to why Josh Childress didn't want to play here anymore.

I don't think he didn't want to play in the NBA anymore. I think he's headed to Greece because he didn't trust the Hawks' ability to complete a sign-and-trade. He took stock of a franchise that appears to us outsiders to be cheap and incompetent and concluded either that their incompetence exceeds even my vast estimation or that the decision-makers in the franchise are also untrustworthy.

So he signs a more lucrative (per year) deal with Olympiakos that lasts long enough that Childress won't (I believe) be property of the Hawks should he want to return to the NBA as a 28-year-old free agent in the summer of 2011. Good on you, Josh Childress. Good luck and good health.

For shame, Atlanta Spirit, for shame.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Summer League: Hawks 74 D-Leaguers 70

Summer league: a subject certainly on the forefront of every Hawks fan's mind this morning. They can never say I let priorities get in the way of being pointlessly thorough.

Box score (.pdf)


Eyewitness Account

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Josh Childress Really Doesn't Want to Re-Sign

Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Josh Childress is in Greece today to meet with Olympiakos to discuss a 3-year, $20 million contract. Discussions might move quickly into consummation:
Childress, 25, is so flustered with the Hawks’ refusal to make a sign-and-trade deal to another team, one source familiar with his thinking believes there’s “better than a 50-50 chance” he’ll sign with Olympiakos. The team also will cover the Greek taxes for Childress, making it even more lucrative.

“Unless he just gets there and doesn’t like it at all, I think he’s going to go,” one league source said.
This, I guess, is what happens when a weak dollar conspires with incompetent management. Not that the Hawks want to lose Childress. It's more that Atlanta Spirit is unable to run the franchise in such a way that a player with options wants to stay any longer than mandatory due to the misfortune of being drafted by the Hawks. Or, as the more objective Wojnarowski puts it:
Childress’ talks with the Hawks have yet to gain traction because Atlanta officials have made it clear their first priority is to resolve negotiations with forward Josh Smith, their other restricted free agent. Privately, Childress has expressed little enthusiasm in returning to play for the organization, sources said.

The Memphis Grizzlies are the only remaining team with enough salary-cap room to make an offer exceeding the $5.6 million mid-level exception, and they so far seem content on saving their money for next summer. Several NBA GMs interested in Childress said they wouldn’t make a mid-level offer to him because they believe the Hawks would match.
Sekou Smith, in his most recent blog post, recounts a rather telling conversation he had with "a member of the previous Hawks’ front office administration" (He means Billy Knight, right?) last fall:
A member of the previous Hawks’ front office administration famously argued me down (to the folks who saw us debating the topic at least) before a preseason game that there was no way Smith or Childress should get extensions last summer or fall because the Hawks hadn’t been to the playoffs, as if they alone were responsible for it not happening prior to our verbal showdown.

“If you feel that way,” I told him, and this is a direct quote “all of you clowns should resign on the spot or be fired for making colossal mistakes with choice draft picks most teams would die for.”
I agree. It's one thing to screw up top 5 picks in consecutive drafts. Or to trade two draft picks for the opportunity to build your team around the fourth-best player on a good team. Or to demonstrate a willingness to punt the position of head coach for half a decade. But to get no value out of possessing the rights to an above-average player who is a restricted free agent is a new frontier of ineptitude.

I hope to have more coherent thoughts as the day unfolds. Other people already do, though...

Kelly Dwyer's (apparent) early-to-rise, strong, Midwestern work ethic is already manifesting itself on this subject:
Unless a flukish thing happens (like Davis opting out of his deal with Golden State, which allows the Warriors unanticipated cap space to sign someone like Corey Maggette for above the MLE), it really is mid-level exception money or bust for these guys. The average salary. The middle class.

And Josh Childress? He's upper middle class. His parents own two German cars, but you don't need to drive past a gate to get into his neighborhood. And yet all he can grab, at this point in the free agent game, is the MLE, or hope that a team like Atlanta (smartly allowing both Childress and Josh Smith to create their own market) can finagle a sign-and-trade that would make the Hawks happy while still securing Josh seven or eight million a year.

Not bloody likely. He's an odd package who is likely undervalued by most team mainly because he doesn't stand out, or possess any single skill that is on par with an All-Star skill set. He just does everything, and quite well, but nothing overwhelms you. And that's hard thing to sell to your owner, your cap guys, and your fan base: "Josh didn't start a game for a team that won 37 games last year, but he's also not below-par in any area I can think of! Dial 1-800-4NBA-TIX!"

Marc Stein's thorough report from Las Vegas includes a section on Josh Smith:

Josh Smith's increasing reluctance to return to the Atlanta Hawks has little to do with Mike Woodson, despite repeated media suggestions that Smith is eager to play for a new coach.

Smith and Woodson are fine, one confidante insists. Smith's frustration with the Hawks is the slow-moving state of negotiations, with Smith apparently still waiting for a serious contract proposal nearly three weeks into free agency.

Not that this is a grand surprise given the Hawks' rep for spending or a quandary exclusive to Smith. The only team in the league with salary-cap space to throw at premier restricteds such as Smith, Charlotte's Emeka Okafor and Chicago's Luol Deng is the Memphis Grizzlies, who have no plans to make their money available this summer, preferring to focus on trade possibilities. So the Hawks, Bobcats and Bulls are naturally proceeding slowly and conservatively, figuring that their prized assets have limited leverage.

Which is true. Threatening to sign a one-year qualifying offer that would lead to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2009 is pretty much the only way Smith can apply pressure on the Hawks now.

Yet I suspect the sign-and-trade chatter will begin to pick up, maybe in all three cases, with Smith said to be especially eager to move on.

I wonder, for example, if my coaching pal who asked me why the Dallas Mavericks aren't trying to assemble a deal that features former ACC player of the year Josh Howard going to Atlanta in some sort of package for Smith isn't onto something.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer League: Hawks 89 Mavericks 74

Box Score (.pdf)

Eyewitness Account

By the box score, Luke Jackson had an outstanding game (20 points on 9 shots, 5-7 3PTA, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, no turnovers). Everybody shot the ball effectively save for Acie Law IV (3-13) and Speedy Claxton (2-7). Claxton had 7 assists against 4 turnovers.

The Hawks play the Jazz tonight.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rocky Mountain Revue Roster Announced

Roster and schedule here.

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Notes For July 17th

You (or at least I) learn something every day. For example, Speedy Claxton never had microfracture surgery last year. He opted for arthroscopy and rehab. I don't know if that makes him more or less likely to be healthy enough to contribute this year though I'm sure that if he can walk, Mike Woodson will run him out there in lieu of a younger, better player.

Sekou Smith also provides more coverage of Kwame Brown and Randolph Morris working out for the Hawks. Either would be a welcome addition to the frontcourt rotation. I expect Randolph Morris is far more likely to be deemed affordable by the organization but maybe Kwame Brown's willing to take a short, relatively cheap contract in exchange for playing time. On the other hand, the chances of Kwame Brown suddenly learning how to play basketball under the tutelage of members of the Atlanta Hawks organization are approximately nil.

In the same piece, Smith reports that Jim Todd and Tyrone Hill have been added to the coaching staff. Tyrone Hill would also be a welcome addition to the frontcourt rotation.

UPDATE: I jumped the gun. Micah Hart's Day 2 report from summer camp is now up.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Actual, Honest-To-Goodness Hawks News

If you don't have Micah Hart's Hawks BasketBlog in your RSS Reader or your usual rotation of must-read sites, this summer league season would be a good time to rectify that.

His Day 1 report of yesterday's practice and scrimmage offers an eyewitness account of proceedings plus audio of interviews with Speedy Claxton (his declares his knee is feeling "pretty good" for what it's worth), Acie Law IV, Al Horford, and Mike Woodson.

Woodson thinks the Hawks will re-sign Smith and Childress "no doubt."


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Rumor and Innuendo

Lack of hard news has reduced me to passing along paragraphs like this that you might have missed. Chris Mannix, of, fleshes out his account of Clippers trade for Marcus Camby by speculating about the trade's impact on Josh Smith's next contract:
The Hawks would likely raise the five-year, $45 million offer that Smith turned down last summer, but money will not be the only factor in the 22-year-old power forward's returning to Atlanta. As I reported in Sports Illustrated during last season, league sources said Smith would not be interested in returning to the Hawks if the team retained coach Mike Woodson, who recently signed a two-year extension. The two have butted heads frequently in Smith's four seasons, and sources said the relationship is beyond repair. With a dearth of offers, Smith may change his tune, but having a volatile relationship on such a young team may not be in the Hawks' best interests.
One tries to remain open to the possibility of positive thoughts but it's difficult. I'm sure there was at least one unqualified coach out there who was willing to work cheap (undoubtedly criterion #1 during the "coaching search") and who had not utterly alienated the franchise's best player to the point he, the player, would consider turning down an eight-figure contract. Then again, I'm always open to the possibility that my assumptions are incorrect and that there are things I do not know.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Today's Dispiriting Quote From Mike Woodson

From today's otherwise dull account of Acie Law IV's desire to succeed:
"The bottom line is this, when I got desperate coming down the home stretch last season I'm the one that shrunk the rotation," Woodson said. "Nobody did that but me. My coaches fought me on it. But I thought it was the right thing for us to do in terms of making a serious run to get that playoff spot. It worked out in our favor, but if I had it to do all over again I wish I would have played [Law] a little bit more. But that's hindsight now."
I'm afraid that feelings desperation and regret provide some foresight as well. This isn't the first time Woodson has come late to this party (see also: this post three days later with damning quote from Woodson).

Mike Woodson's Thought Process Regarding Personal Responsibility and Decision-Making

1. Mistakes will be made.
2. Mistakes should be recognized (eventually).
3. Don't dwell on your mistakes. That's hindsight.
4. Repeat mistakes.

It's useful to know that it's not just the players who dislike Mike Woodson's decisions and manner of making them: David Fizdale, Hawks' assistant coach last year, now an assistant coach for the Miami Heat. Harold Ellis, Hawks' scout last year, now an assistant for the Detroit Pistons. Herb Brown, Hawks' assistant coach last year, now an assistant coach for the Charlotte Bobcats. Each took their new job after the Hawks signed Woodson to his new contract.

Larry Drew and Bob Bender must be hanging around simply for the chance to add "Interim Head Coach" to their resume. They can't enjoy working for an incompetent who is unwilling to question his decisions until well after the fact and then blithely dismiss his own error. Then again, Larry Drew is a Missouri alum.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Summer League Roster Announced

Beyond Al Horford (who we know can play), Acie Law IV (who we reasonably hope can play), and Speedy Claxton (who we simply hope can walk without discomfort) there's nothing on the Hawks' prospective summer league roster to generate excitement. There's barely anyone listed who could reasonably generate intrigue. Oh, and Horford will participate in mini-camp here next week but won't be playing in the Rocky Mountain Revue.

The roster (I'm sure not all of these guys make the trip to Utah):

G - Acie Law IV
G - Speedy Claxton
G - Dominique Kirk
G - Brian Chase
G - Jeremy Richardson
G - Demetric Bennett
G - Thomas Gardner
G - Frank Robinson
G/F - Mario West
G/F - Luke Jackson
* F - Al Horford
F - Brian Randle
F - Kevinn Pinckney
F - Marcus Hubbard
F - Othella Hunter
F - Wayne Simien
C - Justin Williams
C - Jamal Sampson
C - Olumide Oyedeji
* Participating in mini-camp portion only.

A few years and several surgeries ago I thought Luke Jackson and Wayne Simien could be decent-to-good rotation guys. Justin Williams has rebounded a ton in limited minutes the last two years but is limited (456 career minutes, 2 career assists and a 34.8% career free throw shooter) otherwise. Rick Sund appears no more capable of identifying and/or acquiring potentially useful free talent than his predecessor.

Summer league begins for the Hawks next Friday.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Salary Cap Announced, Musings Follow

The NBA has announced the salary cap figure for the 2008-09 season. The key numbers...

Salary cap: $58.680 million
Luxury tax threshold: $71.150 million
Money committed to Hawks players not named Josh: $51.747507

Josh Smith is in Los Angeles today. Will Atlanta Spirit flirt with the paying the luxury tax in order to keep a 37-win team together? Should they? Philadelphia has now joined Miami and Chicago on the list of Eastern Conference teams that could improve by at least 10 wins next season. Neither New York nor Charlotte figure to compete for an NBA title anytime soon but both made massive improvements in the area of head coaching.

The Hawks will be, at best, fighting for the seventh or eighth seed in the East. There are only three guys on the roster you'd want to sign to another contract: Smith, Childress, and Horford. I still say go ahead and sign Smith and Childress (barring a great sign-and-trade offer for either), budget money to extend Horford in 2 years, and shop everybody else for whatever assets you can acquire to allow yourself flexibility in building a team around your three key young players through the 2009 Draft and the next two free agent classes.

I don't fear the Hawks missing the playoffs this season. I fear the organization would be surprised to miss the playoffs this season and lack a plan for any season beyond this one. When they're adamant that 37 wins and a first-round exit counts as a successful year, we probably shouldn't expect them to go about building a potential championship caliber team over the course of a couple of seasons instead of pretending that Mike Woodson's a competent head coach, Joe Johnson's a franchise player, and Mike Bibby's not 30 years old.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another Perspective on the State of the Roster

In what figures to be the most thorough examination this off-season written by someone not required (either by paycheck or custom) to consider the state of the Atlanta Hawks on a daily basis, Kelly Dwyer delineates the crux of the franchise's dilemma:
...this is still a solid, young team that has a chance to make itself a playoff mainstay.

But they're not championship material, even if the squad gets a best case scenario batch of contributions from every youngster on the roster over the next decade. Guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith, and the team's 27 year-old go-to player Joe Johnson are pretty good, but not the sort of transcendent stud you can bank on to move into the NBA's elite.

Consider that the Hawks have been dealing with ownership issues for years, the team just signed Mike Woodson to a potentially two-year contract extension, and it just sent some money toward Rick Sund to come in and make sense of former GM Billy Knight's up and down tenure.

Then understand that the 76ers, flush with just enough cap space once the cap holds are accounted for, can sign Josh Smith a front-loaded contract that would have the Hawks perilously-close to next season's luxury tax level (rumored to be about 71 million dollars) after the team re-signs Childress and adds to what would only be a nine-man roster once the two Joshes come back (Speedy Claxton may never play again).

The luxury tax for a team hoping to back it back to the eighth or seventh spot in the East, holding off Miami and Chicago as they race back into the playoff bracket, and with an ownership group that refused to make deals for years while they hoarded money and tried to figure out just who the head chef was. That doesn't add up.
When you read the whole thing, and you should, you'll realize that I'm fudging things a bit in dubbing this another perspective as there's nothing in the piece with which I strongly disagree. But it is a small treat for me to have the opportunity to link to a non-specialist writing something about the Hawks that's neither brief nor superficial.

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